Guilt or Conviction ?
The last time I taught grade school we had teacher’s meeting each morning to prepare and challenge us to go and do God’s bidding in teaching the children. I will never forget the morning that the pastor “challenged” us with telling us to think of ourselves as the dirtiest, rottenest sinners we can imagine and see ourselves that way all day.
This ‘session’ prompted me to do a lot of study on how a Christian is to see ourselves before God. In my research I ran across the following which I believe every Christian needs to understand and teach others. Far too many Christians are steeped in guilt, serve the Lord out of guilt, go to church amd soul-winning out of guilt and much of their ‘work’ for the Lord will be burned up as wood, hay and stubble at the judgement seat because their motive for service was not their love for the Lord and their desire to glorify Him.
Is it any wonder that far too many Christians look and act defeated and are beaten down spiritually?
By Robert S. McGee, The Search For Significance, Old Time Gospel Hour, Lynchburg, Virginia.
No emotion is more destructive than guilt. It causes a loss of self-respect. It causes the human spirit to wither, and eats away at our personal significance. Guilt is a strong motivation, but it plays on a person’s fear of failure and rejection; therefore, it can never ultimately build, encourage, or inspire us in our desire to live for Christ….
While guilt is applicable to non-believers and originates from Satan, conviction is the privilege of those who believe and is given by the Holy Spirit. Guilt brings depression and despair, but conviction leads us to the beautiful realization of God’s forgiveness and the experience of His love and power.
• GUILT focuses on the state of being condemned: “I am unworthy.”
• CONVICTION focuses on behavior: “This act is unworthy of Christ and is destructive.”
• GUILT deals with the sinner’s loss of self-esteem/Christ-esteem and a wounded self-pride: “What will THEY think of me?”
• CONVICTION deals with the loss of our moment by moment communion with God: “This act is destructive to me and interferes with my walk with God.”
• GUILT produces a fear of punishment: “Now I’m going to get it!”
• CONVICTION produces a fear of the destructiveness of the act itself: “This behavior is destructive to me and others, and it robs me of what God intends for me.”
• The agent of GUILT is Satan: “In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.” (II Corinthians 4:4).
• The agent of CONVICTION is the Holy Spirit: “For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.” (Romans 8:13).
• GUILT leads to depression and more sin: “I am just a low-down, dirty, rotten sinner;” or to rebellion: I don’t care. I’m going to do whatever I want to do.”
• CONVICTION leads to repentance, the turning from sin to Christ: “Lord, I agree with You that my sin is wrong and destructive. What do You want me to do?”
• The interpersonal result of GUILT is alienation, a feeling of shame that drives one away from the person who has been wronged: “I can’t ever face him again.”
• The interpersonal result of CONVICTION is restoration, a desire to remedy the harm done to others: “Father, what would You have me do to right this wrong and restore the relationship with those I have offended.?”
• GUILT ends in depression, bitterness and self-pity: “I’m just no good.”
• CONVICTION ends in comfort, the realization of forgiveness: “Thank You, Lord, that I am completely forgiven and totally accepted by You!”
• The remedy for GUILT is to trust in Christ’s substitionary death to pay for the condemnation for sin.
• The remedy for CONVICTION is confession, agreeing with God that our sin is wrong, that Christ has forgiven us, and that our attitude and actions will change. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (I John 1:9)
What can we conclude from these truths? We can conclude that guilt is rooted in condemnation, but conviction leads us to confession and repentance and to a renewed realization of God’s grace and forgiveness.
Knowing this, how can we deal with feelings of guilt? First, we need to affirm that Christ has forgiven us and made us judicially righteous. Our sin does not bring condemnation, but it is harmful and dishonors God. We can confess our sin to God, claim the forgiveness we already have in Christ, and then move on in joy and freedom to honor Him.